A letter to Members from Club Chair Professor The Lord Patel of Bradford OBE.
It is nearly one year since I was appointed Chair of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
As I reflect on the past year, I feel it is an important time to take stock of how far we have come over the past 12 months, and how much we still have to do.
Following the significant challenges the Club faced last year, the lowest moment in the 159-year history of Yorkshire Cricket, 2022 was always likely to be a year of transition. And so it has proved.
Everyone at the Club remains deeply disappointed by the Men’s First XI relegation to Division Two of the County Championship, but we’re determined to be back at the top table as soon as possible.
We are delighted to be welcoming Shan Masood in as our captain for next year – with Ottis Gibson, Darren Gough and a world class coaching team, we firmly believe we have an incredibly strong platform to bounce straight back next season.
While the county season ended in disappointment for the men’s senior team, there is cause for optimism for the future of Yorkshire in the wider expanse of the Club.
The level of quality coming through cannot be doubted. This was evident in our strong showing in this year’s Vitality Blast competition, reaching finals day for a third time in our history, as well as the success of our cohort of England internationals.
Our victory in the Second XI Championship also gives us cause for celebration, demonstrating the great strength in depth we continue to have as a county.
And I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate our own Northern Diamonds for the fantastic success in the Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy, culminating in a highly enjoyable day at Lord’s. It has been incredibly heartening to play a part in the increasing popularity of the women’s game, which has gone from strength to strength in recent years.
I must mention the outstanding progress of our talent pipeline. Over the past 12 months, our Pathways programme has been a key building block to encouraging greater access to cricket for young people across the county; reducing barriers to playing the game: removing match fees, providing kit and winter coaching free of charge, and creating an accessible hardship fund. We have bolstered our resources with the recruitment of four high performance coaches with specialist skill sets. These measures have helped the programme secure a nearly 40% increase in attendees for regional observations, and an increase of 60% of cricketers selected from a diverse background at County Age Group when compared with 2021.
We remain focused on the cricket, yet progress off the pitch in addressing the issues within the Club’s culture remains vital in setting us up for success in the long-term.
For some of our critics, the events of 2021 might feel like ancient history as they seek to diminish the claims of racial discrimination which led to front and back page news for all the wrong reasons. But it is no exaggeration to say that we lived through a genuine existential threat to the future of one of the most iconic and beloved institutions in this county.
There was a clear and urgent need to make a break from the prevailing culture and build trust. The decisions that have been made to achieve this haven’t always been easy or popular, but we are unapologetic in being driven by a deep-rooted desire to affect real and lasting change – making Yorkshire a place for everyone, from all backgrounds.
We continue to work with the ECB to make sure that we are developing a strong and inclusive environment and will be sure to be in contact with Members following the outcome of the ongoing Cricket Discipline Commission hearings.
While the work is far from over, and the journey to date has not always been straightforward, we have made significant progress in turning the tide.
Since last November, the Club has been turned upside down to build a culture which is progressive and inclusive. It has been my privilege to begin work alongside a highly experienced, dynamic new board we put in place to develop our Club-wide plan, ‘Cricket is a Game for Everyone’, driven by the introduction of fair and robust processes in all areas in line with best practice, and a gold standard of governance.
Our calendar of events has also been reviewed to reflect the diversity of the county, notably this week’s successful Diwali celebration at Headingley, attended by 200 people from a range of backgrounds, as well as a highly successful fundraising dinner this month, which raised £60k for victims of the tragic flooding in Pakistan.
Our work has led to an endorsement from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), who we continue to meet with as we make progress in driving greater equity and fairness for everyone here. This isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes commercial sense – by growing and diversifying within Yorkshire, the UK, and the world, we can help bring the game to new audiences and build a stronger Club.
Following the changes we made to the governance and outlook of the Club, we brought in new and returning sponsors, while restoring international cricket and other major matches to Headingley in the summer – a particular highlight coming in the form of an England victory that was truly “Made in Yorkshire”, thanks to an unforgettable winning partnership between Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root in the third Test against New Zealand.
We are all looking forward to the third Ashes test in Leeds in 2023 and know that Members are rightly excited about the prospect.
With our efforts so focused on putting in place the internal processes to set the Club up for long-term success, I recognise that we have not been as communicative as we might have been in updating you, as Members, on the important work being done all the time.
Along with the Board and the wider management team, we will be looking to change this approach in the coming months through more regular communications on what is taking place.
Finally, the upcoming EGM on 11 November gives us a chance to put into place further steps to continue the positive momentum of the past year. We have conducted a number of surveys and focus groups that have provided insight to make membership from 2023 more appealing to a wider, and more diverse audience – we are opening the doors and putting greater power in the hands of members to build an organisation that meets your needs.
I very much hope, subject to the vote, that we will be welcoming two new Member representatives on the Board, in Richard Levin and John Jackson. This will help ensure that the running of the Club aligns with Members’ interests.
Members will have the opportunity to formalise a new Code of Conduct to help make the club more inclusive and welcoming, give greater voice to new members in the form of immediate voting rights upon admission to the Club, and have their say on the proposed reduction in county championship fixtures in future seasons, as proposed in the High Performance Review.
We are firmly of the belief that it is vital to retain the integrity of the County Championship by maintaining 14 games a season – not only does it consistently make for fantastic cricket, that is enjoyed by fans across the country, it also serves as a vital development pipeline for the England side. I know this feeling is broadly shared across the membership and firmly encourage every member to vote and play their part in the ongoing recovery of the Club.
I look forward to meeting you at a number of Members Forums taking place throughout the winter, more details of which will be available in due course.
It has been a challenging time, and progress has not been easy. We did not expect it to be, and we have much ahead of us to do, in partnership with you. We look forward to continuing on our path to become a Club of which all of us in Yorkshire and beyond can be proud.
Professor The Lord Patel of Bradford OBE
Chair -The Yorkshire County Cricket Club